My classmate Das became a bureaucrat after his graduation. The other day, I met him in his office. We were sipping tea reminiscing about our exploits in school. Suddenly, Das stood up and wished, “Good morning, sir” to someone behind me who had entered the room. The person gave certain instructions to Das and left. Das told me that the person was his immediate boss.
I told Das, “Don’t you address him by his name? In my office, I address my boss by name only. If I receive a call meant for my boss, I say, “Mr D’Souza, here is a call for you”.
Das told me that from his training days, he had been tutored to address his superior officers, “sir” or “madam”. Das recalled his first day at his departmental training centre after joining duty.
“The course instructor entered our classroom and told us that the director of the institute would shortly address us. When the director entered the class we were to stand up and wish her ‘Good morning, madam’. We were asked to sit down only after the director sat down. We were to introduce ourselves one by one. When the director asked a question to a trainee, he replied, ‘Yeah’. The director told us curtly, ‘I don’t want any Americanism in class. Answer, ‘Yes, madam’ or ‘No, madam’. From that day onwards, we addressed all our bosses respectfully,” said Das.
“Don’t you have any rebels in your ranks? Nobody questions the system?” I asked. Das said, “We have a half-mad peon. He habitually comes late to office. One day my boss asked him why he was coming late. The peon replied nonchalantly that his appointment order did not specify at what time he should come to office. Since he always completed his assigned work of dispatching postal articles, the boss could not discipline him.
The peon was not expecting any further progress in his career. All of us desire our promotions and worry about what the boss would write in the annual confidential report. The threat of a posting to an inconvenient rural area also compelled us to keep our bosses in good humour”. I wondered aloud what if the boss was quirky or eccentric.
Das said, “One of my bosses in another office detested shaking hands. He was afraid that by shaking hands he might come in contact with a new strain of virus or negative vibes from the other person. Whenever someone extended his hand for a handshake, be it his birthday or promotion day, he flew into a rage. The whole office shuddered to enter his cabin on such days”.